Monday, January 31, 2011

We need a plan for today, not for 2007

It’s been amusing to read the punditry and the politicos, but particularly the politicos, as they try to find stones to throw at the Liberal Party’s strongly supported by the public position that now is not the right time to keep slashing corporate taxes.

One oft-repeated meme is that four years ago the Liberals supported corporate tax cuts, and so how dare they change their mind. This leads to one of the most oft-repeated, and lamest, charges in political “debate”: the flip flop.

Hearing this charge from the Conservatives on the right is one thing (not that they’ve never been known to change their minds on anything…) but it’s particularly amusing coming from the NDP, given that they also are opposed to further corporate tax cuts. But then again, they have a history of being angry when people agree with them, anger being a default position, although one that makes it difficult to “make parliament work."

When people make the “you supported it in 2007” argument as NDP strategist Brian Topp does today, and as Sun reporter David Akin did last week, they usually forget to add one useful thing: context.

Things are a lot different today than they were in 2007. The Ottawa Senators battled Anaheim in the Stanley Cup Finals. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End packed them in at the box office, and The Dixie Chicks cleaned-up at the Grammies.

Oh, and the Liberal Party had another leader and the federal budget projected a surplus for 2006/07 of $9.2 billion, and $3 billion for 2007/08.

In the context of 2007, with a healthy surplus, corporate tax cuts made sense as part of a program of targeted tax relief in other areas and other program investment. Which is what the Liberals campaigned on in 2008.

However, things are a little different today, aren’t they? We have a deficit of over $50 billion, and a host of more pressing priorities. And the Ottawa Senators are now a horrible hockey team. So in the current context, corporate tax cuts no longer make sense, particularly when you're talking about borrowing money and adding to the deficit to do it.

Things change, and we need our politicians to change along with them and adopt policy that suits the needs and challenges of the times, instead of being wedded to the policies of yesterday if they no longer make sense. That’s why government investment in telegraph infrastructure shouldn’t be a priority, why there’s no debate about a phonograph levy, and why we don’t need to tighten our border security to guard against Fenian raids.

Canadians want leaders with a plan for 2011; not critics still living in 2007.

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Greg Fingas said...

Fair enough: let's work on your terms and look at the future rather than the past.

The Libs are trying to pretend there's some stark division in which they're anti-corporate tax cut party. Yet they're also making clear that they plan to resume cutting corporate taxes within a matter of a few years. So the principle that's supposedly animating the Libs - the supposed line of division between them and the Cons - is one that they're already planning to back away from at the first available opportunity.

Never mind more mundane labels like "flip-floppers", isn't that about the surest possible warning sign about a party's credibility?

Jeff said...

I think you're trying to draw sharper lines than you know exist. And if you want to talk about credibility, I think telling people you will hold one position forever no matter what stretches the bounds of credibility.

The Liberal position is perfectly clear: given the deficit, and other more pressing priorities, now is not the time for more corporate tax cuts. We think limited resources would be better devoted to higher priority areas, such as the Liberal home care plan.

Now, does that mean we're fundamentally opposed to the idea of corporate tax cuts? No, it doesn't. Does it mean we'd never cut them in the future? No, it doesn't. Nor does it mean we'd rush into them any time soon.

That's a perfectly clear, and credible, position to take: we have other priorities, and will continue to make economic decisions based on what is best for the country given the circumstances of the time, from the budgetary situation to the needs of Canadians.

I think that's a far more credible position to take then to hold rigid to an ideologically-driven position, irregardless of circumstances or needs.

Kev said...

The problem with the conservative movement of today is that they cannot understand nuance and see the world strictly in terms of black and white.Ultimately this will lead to their undoing

I like most want a government that is nimble and quick on it's feet,one able to adapt to changing circumstances.

Any government that refuses to adapt solely for ideological reasons such as the current one is unfit to govern

RayK said...

This has nothing to do with "flip-flopping".

Over the last ten years, the Liberals and Conservatives have supported cutting corporate taxes by about 50%--29.12% to 15%.

In 2008, the Liberals campaigned on cutting corporate taxes even further than the Conservatives were proposing.

I don't know about you, but I haven't seen my taxes cut by 50%; bid profitable corporations have, though.

Now in 2011, the Liberals have changed their mind and decided that they only want to cut corporate taxes by about 40% instead of 50% (29.12% to 18% instead of 29.12% to 15%).

The problem is not that they have changed their mind. The problem is that they now want us to believe that this is the fundamental question that seperates the Liberals from the Conservatives when it's obviously just a tactical feint they're using to convince voters that they're the progressive party that Canadians want them to be.

Unknown said...

My two cents on topic at hand, before blatant link-rolling: corporate tax cuts for what Tories hilariously term "job creators" are a cruel joke given that our tax rates are already like half those of most major industrialized competitors.

Don't know if you all have seen the new Tory attack ad spoof. It's edgy, but extremely funny:

Continue aimless intra-progressive brand bickering now. Apologies for the interruption.

marie said...

2011,2011,2011. not 2008,2008.2008 Thankfully a credible leader does not live in the past but is open to change if circumstances warrant which can change day by day so get out of the past and think of the future, yours too.

That's the biggest problem with Harper's government and his supporters. They keep making lame excuses like but, but, but, the liberals did it. Well suckers, The Harper cons have been doing it every day for the past 5 years so whats new?

Go troll else well and spin all you like at Ardwalks and common senseless blogs. They are not too friendly over there.

Alison said...

I had been thinking the same thing myself, and am glad to see you put it on your blog.

rockfish said...

Time to tie the CONs desperate wish to fulfill every CEO's wet dream by asking "so what programs and services will Stephen Harper cut to pay for his corporate welfare??"

what's good for the goose is good for the fat chess-playing slob...